July 23, 2008

Summer Classes Give Kids Insight into the Outdoors

By Melodie Wright, Anchorage Daily News, Alaska

Jul. 23--WASILLA -- After lessons in compass etiquette and plant identification, about 30 Girl Scouts headed into the woods adjacent to the Wasilla Multi-Use Sports Complex.

Led by Joe Sylvia and Michelle Winsor, instructors with the North America Outdoor Institute, the girls tested out their new knowledge by choosing a reference point and learned to keep the "dog in the doghouse" -- or the needle between two compass points.

Filming it all was Debra McGhan, president of NAOI, which received grants from community organizations, including the Mat-Su Health Foundation, to offer a variety of free summer training around the Valley.

The classes include orienteering, flora/fauna identification, ATV/bike safety, water safety, outdoor first aid and firearms safety. This is a new direction for NAOI, which has specialized in winter safety training.

Summer classes are offered weekdays and, for groups of 25 or more, are tailored to match each group.

For these Scouts, a list of edible plants wasn't on the menu. Winsor, an herbalist in training, told the girls to eat nothing unless a qualified adult okays it.

"So what do you eat if you get lost in the woods?" asked Ellie Butikoser, 12, after Winsor cautioned the girls against eating red berries.

"Bring a lunch," Winsor told her.


--Classes on outdoor medical care will be offered Aug. 5 at the Wasilla Multi-Use Sports Complex, 1001 S. Mack Drive. Children ages 8-14 will meet 10 a.m.-2 p.m. for a free course. Adults will meet 10 a.m.-4 p.m. for a Red Cross certified course that will have a small fee. To register, call 376-2898.

--A course on orienteering and flora/fauna identification will be offered Aug. 7 if there's enough interest. Call 376-2898 for information.

--Online: www.besnowsmart.org


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